Phoenixville Rising by Robb Cadigan

#Book Review
Fiction|Love|Friendship|Redemption

Phoenixville Rising is a story that talks about how the shutting down of a steel mill affected the town and all of its people. It is a story that resonated across America before the turn of the century. Phoenixville Rising is written by local author Robb Cadigan who also resides in a town named Phoenixville, Pennsylvania. It’s a fictionalized version of history that follows the story of Boo and Sketch, and the remnants of a once-bustling steel town. In the absence of the steel mill jobs, the youth of the town are drawn towards petty crime and gang culture. Interwoven within this story is also a fictionalized recollection of an era in Phoenixville’s history. The two narratives are separated by time but connected by the same human emotions.

I enjoy reading stories about small towns in an effort to get an insight into the town. I was disappointed to find out that a few of the places mentioned in the book were not present in the real world. It would have been great if I could visit the Wishing Manor which plays a central theme in the book. This book also has themes of friendship, loyalty, love, betrayal, crime, and the everyday struggle of youth without a secure future.

If you like reading about small towns, then do give Phoenixville Rising a chance. However, if you are looking for a deep insightful story about a town on the brink of extinction, then you would be better off picking another book.

My Sister, the Serial Killer – Oyinkan Braithwaite

Crime|Dramedy|Unsettling|Family

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My Sister, the Serial Killer, is a story of two sisters, Korede and Ayoola. Ayoola kills and Korede protects. This pretty much sums up the entire story.

What makes it interesting to read is the unique narration by Oyinkan Braithwaite, where a dark theme is narrated with a comic element. Though a short novel, you cannot help but get involved with the characters.

Korede, the elder sister is a nurse by profession. She is reliable, hard-working, and fiercely protective of her younger sister. At the same time she is also resentful of her sister’s flawless beauty.

Ayoola is a carefree, happy-go-lucky soul who always gets what she wants and she is used to men falling in love with her beauty almost instantly. She is extremely close to her sister and shares all her secrets with Korede, including the murders of her boyfriends.

Every time, Ayoola kills a man, she summons her sister by saying, “Korede, I killed him.” As always, Korede goes running to save Ayoola and tries her best to clean up her mess. But, what happens when Korede’s long love interest, Tade, falls for Ayoola’s beauty too? Will she save her sister or Tade?

My Sister, the Serial Killer, is Oyinkan Braithwaite’s debut novel. It is a dark comic fictional story which is easy to read and the story flows really well. At first, you feel the storyline does not progress beyond Ayoola’s beauty, how she is the favorite child, and Korede though being smart always feels worthless. But soon, the story picks up pace, a lot more characters come into the picture and the story evolves.

When Korede finds out that, “More than three murders makes you a serial killer”, she is clearly frightened and worried for her sister. Ayoola’s merry disposition after committing the crimes makes it all the more weird. Introducing another character in the story, Muhtar – a coma patient, who is Korede’s only source of comfort and companion with whom she shares all her secrets and thoughts.

My Sister, the Serial Killer, deals with crime, loyalty, love, an abusive father, and gender roles. This tale also has undertones of self-worth, dependency and frustration with Korede always feeling that she is a step behind Ayoola. It is about family-ties, where both the sisters feed off each other and are equally guilty of their crimes. Ayoola for committing them and Korede for hiding them. Like the author herself says, “They are two sides of the same coin.” This book is a quick, fun, and interesting read.